Book Series Seminari del Centro interuniversitario per la storia e l’archeologia dell’alto medioevo, vol. 6

Three Empires, Three Cities

Identity, Material Culture and Legitimacy in Venice, Ravenna and Rome, 750-1000

Veronica West-Harling (ed)

  • Pages: 351 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:52 b/w
  • Language(s):English, Italian
  • Publication Year:2015

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-56228-5
  • Paperback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-56562-0
  • E-book
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A comparative history of Rome, Ravenna and Venice through an exploration of their post-Byzantine identity before 1000.


“(…) the excellent contributions and discussions of this volume illuminate what was at stake for these cities and the various factors that underscored their development and the outcomes at the end of the first millennium.” (Edward M. Schoolman, in The Medieval Review, 2016.09.04)

“It is to be hoped that that this original and provocative book will stimulate further comparative work on the distinct nature and common features of three of Italy’s most interesting cities.” (Tom Brown in Early Medieval Europe, 27/2, 2019, p. 321)

« Il faut saluer l’approche multidisciplinaire de ce recueil qui démontre, une fois de plus, la complémentarité des approches historienne et archéologique. » (Matthias Rozein, dans Le Moyen Âge, 3-4, 2022, p. 780)


Veronica West-Harling is a Research Fellow in the History Faculty at Oxford. She has published several books on Anglo-Saxon and Early Medieval Italian history, and collaborated with Chris Wickham on the 3-year AHRC project on which this workshop is based. She is currently publishing a book on Rome, Ravenna and Venice, 750-1000: Byzantine Heritage, Imperial Present and the Construction of City Identity, with Oxford University Press.


This book focuses on three Italian cities in the early middle ages, Rome, Ravenna and Venice, and looks at them in a new light. The unifying element linking them was their common Byzantine past, since they remained in the sphere of imperial power after the creation of the Lombard kingdom in the late 6th century, up to 750. What happened to them when their links with the Byzantine Empire were almost entirely severed in the 8th century? Did they remain socially and culturally heirs of Byzantium in the 9th and 10th centuries in their political structures, social organisation, material culture, ideological frame of reference and representation of identity? Or did they become part of the next imperial powers of Italy, the Carolingian and the Ottonian empires? A workshop in Oxford in 2014 brought together an international group of specialists to discuss these questions in a comparative context; the excitement of their debates is captured in the discussion sections linking the papers in this volume. Early medieval Italy can be seen in a new way as a result.


Veronica West-Harling     Preface
Veronica West-Harling     Introduction

Session I: Venice: creation of a city and its identity

Stefano Gasparri    The formation of an early medieval community: Venice between provincial and urban identity
Sauro Gelichi    La storia di una nuova città attraverso l’archeologia: Venezia nell’alto medioevo

Session II: Ravenna: the city and its ruler

Enrico Cirelli    Material Culture in Ravenna and its hinterland between the 8th and the 10th century

Session III: Rome: the reality of power

Riccardo Santangeli Valenzani    Topografia del potere a Roma nel X secolo

Session IV: Rome: reinterpreting the city’s past

Caroline Goodson    To be the daughter of Saint Peter: S. Petronilla and forging the Franco-Papal Alliance

Sessions V and VI: Empires

Paolo Delogu    I Romani e l'Impero (VII-X secolo)
François Bougard    Les Francs à Venise, à Ravenne et à Rome, facteur d’identité urbaine ?
Hagen Keller    Identità romana e l’idea dell’Imperium Romanorum nel decimo e nel primo undicesimo secool

Session VII: Round table discussion/Tavola rotonda

Chris Wickham    Conclusions